According to the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) figures, more than 564,000 people have died in the USA from an opioid overdose in the years 1999-2020. Opioids are a class of drugs used to reduce pain, and include prescription opioids, Fentanyl and heroin. In 2020 alone, 75% of the nearly 92,000 drug overdoses involved an opioid.

This rise in opioid overdose deaths has occurred in three waves. The first wave began in the 1990’s with the increased prescribing of opioids by medical professionals, the second wave began in 2010 with rapid increases in overdose deaths due to illicit heroin use, and the third wave began in 2012 with significant overdose deaths due to illegally manufactured fentanyl use. According to the CDC, 44 people die EVERY DAY in the US from overdoses involving prescription opioids.

Further alarming information:

  • 5 million Americans report using prescription opioids for non-medical reasons.
  • 6 million people meet the criteria for opioid dependence.
  • Drug overdoses result in more deaths annually than motor vehicle accidents.

During the Obama administration, there was a fundamental change from treating opioid addiction like a crime to recognizing that substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic illness. With this change in mindset, programs were developed for medication-assisted treatment options to help individuals more successfully discontinue their opioid misuse, as forced abstinence from the opioids had a low rate of long-term success. These new treatment options helped alleviate the physical symptoms of withdrawal, reduce drug craving and helped to normalize the changes in the brain due to the opioid misuse.

These medications include Buprenorphine (Suboxone), Naltrexone and Methadone. Methadone is available for use only through approved outpatient programs and is dispensed daily to the person undergoing treatment.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016 sought to expand prevention and education efforts, expand access to treatment options, strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs, and expand medication-assisted treatment programs. A major part of that expansion was the effort to make those treatment options available in a primary care clinic setting to lessen any delay in treatment. This also included authorizing nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) who have completed additional education to prescribe Suboxone for substance use disorder. In addition to the medication programs, outpatient counseling is a crucial component to a success recovery response.

At the Gateway Family Health Clinics, we have been caring for the community for 50 years and are here to help those dealing with a substance use disorder. We have providers at our clinics in Moose Lake, Sandstone and Hinckley who are educated to safely manage and provide Suboxone to alleviate the symptoms and cravings associated with opioid withdrawal/ cessation. In addition, we partner with Ascertain Recovery Centre in Sandstone for the vital counseling component.

Please call any of our clinics to arrange an appointment- we are here to help you manage this illness.


Dr. Gary T. Anderson, DNP, CFNP, RN